The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The bilingualism farce: Part 94 - almost no baseball journos habla espaƱol

The major leagues are stuffed with Latin Americans; the US has millions of Spanish speakers; but, according to USA Today (March 13), very few of the journos who cover the sport can speak to the many monolingual Spanish speakers in the game in their own language:
Ecuador-born Jaime Jarrin...says there are "definitely" fewer than 10 baseball writers fluent in Spanish and perhaps fewer than five. None of USA TODAY's baseball writers are fluent in Spanish.

The piece says that the National Association of Hispanic Journalists has done little to remedy the situation. But gives no substantial reason why there should be such a dearth of hispanophone hacks covering the sport.

My guess is that, despite the large population of Hispanics, the numbers who are functionally bilingual to the standard required for journalism are relatively small. And would tend to go into more lucrative professions than journalism to exploit their skills.

One factor is the prevalence of Spanglish. The French of Quebec - even the written variety - is polluted by the proximity of its users to Anglo-America [1]; the Spanish of USA residents suffers as badly, if not worse.

A happy-clappy celebration of Spanglish from the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2000 - outside the pay-wall - with some interesting historical background, fails to get the point: in exchange for all that Columbian Sturm und Drang, the conquistadores gave the descendants of their subjects inter-comprehensibility from the Rio Grande to Tierra del Fuego (Brazil excluded, of course).

As the language has developed - as the CHE describes - on both sides of the Atlantic, remarkably, it has, as I understand it, mostly remained the same language everywhere. Pollution from contact with Indian languages has generally been contained - in the written language, at least.

It is a great resource - whose value has only been limited by the (mostly) dreadful government which its users have enjoyed since colonial times.

The US should be a powerhouse in producing bilinguals in all professions. Instead, bilingual education has become a byword for turning out barrio kids illiterate in two languages. (According to a 2001 piece reprinted from the WSJ, the middle class Hispanic population of the US in 1998 was around 2.7 million: what language practices amongst that group?)

My guess is that prestige has something to do with it: in the US, Spanish is - I am surmising - looked on amongst gringos as the language of maids and janitors, rather than that of Borges or Fuentes.

  1. The accent is the French equivalent of Scouse (Liverpool) or Glaswegian (Glasgow), as a short sojourn with Radio Canada will indicate.

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